Heritage Oak Winery: In Love with Lodi

Heritage Oak offered a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere at their lovely tasting room. The facility is elegantly appointed with wood paneling and stone floors. It was a little bit of a surprise in contrast to the somewhat plain appearance of the building that houses it.

Heritage Oak Winery
It was a lot more crowded before the Jersey Short Bus departed

When we first arrived the tasting room was a crowded sea of cologne, skinny jeans and popped collars. It wasn’t too long though before the Jersey Short Bus departed, making more room for the rest of us.

The tasting room is flanked by large doors on both ends, creating excellent flow out to the back patio which was set up with party tents and tables. A duo played blues on bass and bottleneck guitar, and I must congratulate them on finding the perfect volume to be heard without drowning out conversation.

Heritage Oak Winery
How many bass players does it take to screw in a light bulb? One. Five. One. Five.

The bar was staffed by a handful of folks who seemed quite relaxed despite the large number of people crowding the place when we first arrived.

One note for tasting room staff. This occurred elsewhere as well but was particularly severe in my experience at Heritage Oak. If your bar has room for 10 people and your tasting room is crowded with 40 or more, you need to manage your conversations with people at the bar so you don’t shut out people who are obviously waiting behind them for a pour. It’s not reasonable to expect the customers to realize they are monopolizing bar space and preventing others from getting a pour. If you make eye contact with someone waiting and you ignore them to continue chatting with the customers who want to discuss every sip with you, you’ve very quickly created a very negative impression.

The Wines

2009 Sauvignon Blanc: Subtle, even laid back, with a mineral flavor and an effervescent feel. Nikki adds: This had a minerality I associate with sparkling water. I’m a big fan of sparkling water, so this was a positive.

2007 Zinfandel “Zinfidelity”: Mellow, estery with a hint of spice. This is a real easy-drinker. Nikki adds: I got a hint of caramel and plum on this one.

2007 Vino Tinto: Tastes like a close cousin to the above Zin. A bit fruitier, a touch less estery and a greater presence of tannins in a well-balanced, accessible wine. Nikki adds: When you read Anne Rice’s “Interview With a Vampire,” you might imagine the blood tasting just like this.

2007 Carnivale: Starting to notice a signature style here. This has similar mellowness and warmth to the other reds, just a touch more acid for a brighter character.

2007 Estate Zinfandel: This falls pretty squarely between the Zinfidelity and the Carnivale. More acidic than the former, not as much as the latter. A very nice wine, but doesn’t separate itself much from what is turning out to be a pretty narrow range of flavors.

2008 Hoffman Vineyards Zinfandel: Again, just a slight variation from the preceding reds. This one is a bit fruitier. Nikki says: I tasted a hint of apple in this one as well as some oak.

2008 Heritage Oak Zinfandel: Same, but a little less fruity than the Hoffman Vineyards Zin.

The reds were all quite good, and I’d be happy serving any of them to friends, but I was a bit surprised at how similar they were to each other. The winemaker obviously has a strong preference for that flavor profile, but in a stable of six reds I’d hope to see a little more variety of expression.